Sunday, March 23, 2008

Adults Discuss, Toddlers Throw Tantrums

More Darwinist SOP:

Darwinist Mike Dunford is incensed with the manner in which I quoted him in one of my recent posts. I pointed out, using Mr. Dunford’s own words, that the assertion that an understanding of natural selection was essential to laboratory research on bacterial resistance to antibiotics was inconsistent with the Darwinist assertion that the biological evidence for natural selection disproves the theory of intelligent design. It’s a fairly obvious point, when you think about it carefully, and it was refreshing that Mr. Dunford made the point in such a clear (if inadvertent) way. The observation is worth reviewing.

First, two definitions:

Natural selection is selection in nature, presumably arising without intelligent agency. An example of natural selection would be the differential reproduction of organisms in nature, without the evident guidance of an intelligent agent.

Artificial selection is selection caused by intelligent agency. An example of artificial selection would be the intentional breeding of bacteria by a scientist in a research lab.

The distinction between natural selection and artificial selection is at least matter of definition, and perhaps there are empirical differences as well.

What is the relationship between natural selection and artificial selection? There are two possibilities:

1) Natural selection is substantially different from artificial selection. If true, then breeding of bacteria in a research lab in order to study antibiotic resistance doesn’t depend substantially on the theory of natural selection.

2) Natural selection is substantially the same as artificial selection. If true, then breeding of bacteria in a research lab in order to study antibiotic resistance does depend substantially on the theory of natural selection. However, if natural selection is substantially the same as artificial selection, then biological change in nature (natural selection) is in some ways the same as biological change caused by intelligent agency (artificial selection). That’s an assertion that some of the evidence in evolutionary biology is consistent with intelligent design.

What did Mr. Dunford think of my observation about his argument? Mr. Dunford:

...when a dog pisses on a fire hydrant, it’s not committing an act of vandalism. It’s just being a dog. It’s possible to use that analogy to excuse a creationist who takes a quote wildly out of context, I suppose, but I don’t think it’s really appropriate. Creationists might indulge in quote mining with the same casual disregard for public decency as a male dog telling his neighbors that he’s still around, but, unlike dogs, the creationists are presumably capable of self-control...

Comentators on Mr. Dunford’s blog didn’t like my observation either. ‘GvlGeologist’, FCD, wrote:

Mike [Dunford], what are the chances that you could email Egnor directly and ask for an apology for the deliberate twisting of your posting, and CC it to other members of his department, especially the chair of neurosurgery?

Commentator ‘Paul Burnett’ suggested:

Write Egnor a simple one-page request for an apology, detailing his transgressions. Cc: everybody: The chair of neurosurgery, all the neurosurgeons, all the surgeons and anesthesiologists and other specialists, the nurses and office staff, the PR office, the accounting office, the local newspapers and TV stations, the DA and the Chamber of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau...wallpaper his world. Google his name to find his office(s) address(es), then Google the building(s) address(es) and sent a copy to everybody in his building(s). Find out every association he's a member of and send it to all the officers, past and present. Send it to the FBI, intimating he's Client Number 8 (naah, maybe that's too low.)

Commentator 'T. Bruce McNeely', a Darwinist pathologist/microbiologist, wrote

...if Dr. Egnor were practising at my hospital, I would be lobbying for suspension of his antimicrobial prescribing privileges.

The vituperation is remarkable. Simply expressing disagreement with Darwinian orthodoxy evokes ad hominem attacks and threats to one's reputation and livelihood. Yet there’s no reason to be so vindictive. I merely quoted Mr. Dunford’ own arguments, in a way that makes his logical structure clear. Mr. Dunford seems to have understood my point, and has followed with a much more thoughtful post about the role of Darwin's theory in antibiotic research. I agree with much of it.

Yet there is an important point that Mr. Dunford raises on which I disagree. He writes...

1 comment:

Olorin said...

(1) Natural selection is exactly the same as artificial selection. If scientists breeding bacteria isn a lab is artificial selection, then what is honeybees breeding fruit trees by selecting which ones to pollinate? When lions catch and eat the slowest zebras, is that natural selection, or artificial?

(2) An argument for intelligent design because "some of the evidence in evolutionary biology is consistent with intelligent design" is laughable. Surely you're not serious? Horses having hooves is consistent with pink unicorns having hooves--but i wouldn't bet on pink unicornsd because of that. ID is unable to come up with any physical evidence thatv would be consistent with design but inconsistent with evolution.

Matteo delenda est.